Pope Francis has strongly condemned “the blind violence” that brought terror and killed at least 84 people in Nice, the capital of the French Riviera, including two from the United States and people from other countries, as well as many children. Very many were also wounded in this most recent act of violence on the evening of July 14.
The pope expressed his “profound sadness and his spiritual closeness to the French people,” after yet another horrific attack hit this country of 67 million people, the third in two years.
He did so in a telegram sent on his behalf to the bishop of Nice, Andre Marceau, by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, which recalled that the “blind violence” struck as France was celebrating its national day.
“He entrusts to the mercy of God those who have lost their lives, and associates himself to the pain of the bereaved families,” the cardinal said.
“He expresses his sympathy all those who are wounded” in the attack and “to everyone who contributed to helping them,” the cardinal added.
Pope Francis, he said, “implores from God the gift of peace and harmony, and invokes the Divine blessings on the families who have suffered and on all the French people.”
The killing and terror took place late Thursday evening when a man, identified by media reports as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old French-Tunisian, a father of three children, divorced and not very religious, drove a heavy truck at high speed into a crowd that had been watching a fireworks display on Bastille Day, the national holiday. The attack took place in Nice, which has a population of some 350,000 people. The man drove the truck for more than a mile through the once festive crowd killing men, women and children, and injuring very many en route before the police finally killed him.
It seems the man was not on the list of people under surveillance by the French intelligence services for links to terrorism, but he was known to the local police for domestic violence and theft according to press reports.
At the time of writing, no terrorist organization has claimed responsibility, but some reports say the Islamic State has celebrated the killings on its social media accounts.
The pope’s condemnation came some hours after the director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Federico Lombardi, S.J., issued a statement early Friday morning also condemning the attack.
“We have followed during the night, with the greatest concern, the terrible news which has come from Nice,” Father Lombardi stated on Vatican Radio.
He said he wanted to make known “on the part of Pope Francis and ourselves, our sharing and [our] solidarity in the suffering of the victims and of all the French people, in what was supposed to be a great day of celebration.”
“We condemn in an absolute manner every manifestation of homicidal folly, hatred, terrorism and attacks against peace,” the Vatican spokesman stated.
This was the third attack in France over the past two years. The first was on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, January of 2015, while the second was in central Paris in November of that same year. More than 230 people have been killed in these three episodes of blind violence.
According to reports from ABC, the two Americans killed in Nice were Sean Copeland and his 11-year-old son Brodie, from Lakeway, Tex., roughly 30 miles west of Austin.